Students interested in health disparities among underserved rural and ethnic populations have a good opportunity to explore that interest while engaging in community work with the Mapping Health Disparities Project, associated with the UC Merced Center of Excellence for the Study of Health Disparities in Rural and Ethnic Underserved Populations (COEHD).
The project, which is ongoing, intends to “provide a tool of reference when making decisions regarding education and health in Merced County,” according to a progress report given to the Merced City Council. To do this, members of the team locate health-related places such as doctor’s, dentist’s, and optometrist’s offices, fast food restaurants, and other community resources on a map in order to locate missing services in the county. These factors are compared to each other to find patterns, such as increased visits to doctor’s offices in places where there is a high amount of fast food restaurants.
Van Strobel, a member of the mapping team, has been volunteering his time specifically at optometrist’s offices. The first step is to locate them by searching the Yellow Pages, Google, and other search services. Next, the locations must be confirmed as current, staffed offices by contacting them and verifying details about their location and staff. Once that is done, they are cross-referenced using a mapping program called ArcGis, and used for research on correlation between health services in the county.
The final goal is to write a complete report at the end of the project, putting together a complete picture of why and where resources in Merced should be allocated and the effects this has on the community’s overall health. The program is currently looking for student volunteers, especially those in statistics, pre-med disciplines, and sociology. Any student interested in joining the project is encouraged to visit the website at http://coehealth.ucmerced.edu/index.html, or contact Johnny Moua, the leader of the program, or Steve Roussos, the advisor.